Microsoft User Interface & Computer Interface

By: MarketNet

I do not have emotional reactions to the software applications I use on a daily basis.? They are necessary tools which I use to accomplish my job and produce documentation that is of benefit to my team members and to the client. I neither love nor hate them; they are merely a fact of my life.

Until Microsoft Office 2007.

Trying to use the new Fluent User Interface (aka the ribbon) illicit feelings of confusion, frustration, and depending how quickly I need to get something done and am unable to find where it is hiding, anger.?

And I know I am not alone.? Where there is demand, someone is willing to program a solution, and sell it. There are at least two applications that will provide the simple and easy menu system I love (yes, I discovered I harbored feelings of attraction for those classic gray text menus, only realizing the depth of my amour when they had disappeared from my life). Interestingly enough, these third party add-ons are also available on the Microsoft Office Marketplace.

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Am I just a technological curmudgeon, unwilling to embrace the new wave of UI? Or is the wholesale change of a twenty-four year-old interface with no inherent option for backward-customization not in the user's best interest?

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What makes something simple? Easy? Intuitive?

Simple is defined as "not elaborate; plain".? Point for the classic menus; desktop or laptop, they used a minimal amount of space to get things done.? The ribbon's overabundance of icons, which still need text to explain what they are, crowd my work area.

Easy is defined as "not hard or difficult; requiring no great labor or effort".? This is a tie.? For those accustomed to the classic menus, they were not difficult to use. Click on a tab and the options appear in a menu list.? Arrows indicated more options with fly-out menus.? The ribbon presents a lot of common, useful tasks right from the start, and other commands are available by clicking on the text heading of the tab.

Intuitive is defined as "spontaneously derived from or prompted by a natural tendency". Ah, there's the rub.? Because my natural tendency when wanting to save a file is to click the "File" menu. Not an option in the ribbon.? My natural tendency to find and replace a word is to click the "Edit" menu. Not an option in the ribbon. In fact, one of my most frustrating interactions with the Fluent User Interface was trying to locate the "Replace" command. The Help system in Excel was anything but.? ?I understand what the task "replace" entails, I didn't know it is now located on the far right side of the Home toolbar. I guess it was user error that I didn't try the Help system in Word first, since that had exactly the information I needed.

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For those whose first interaction with the suite of Microsoft products is the ribbon, no doubt they will find it simple and easy.? I am curious how much of that UI is truly intuitive, compared to learned.? Driving a car is not intuitive; it is a learned skill that once accomplished, is simple and easy.

At least until they replace my dashboard with a ribbon.

by Heidi Berthiaume, Usability/Information Architecture
MarketNet

Microsoft
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